In a recent article I wrote about the power of the Internet to expand personal learning networks. In this article I wanted to take the opportunity to explore a systematic way of applying Twitter to expanding personal learning networks.
So what got me thinking about this?
I have been very busy lately, and received the opportunity to attend two conferences back to back. The first conference I attended was Converge 10, a state e- learning conference in Melbourne. The second was the Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs (APSAD) annual conference in Canberra.
I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed both conferences and had the opportunity to learn from some very smart people in both the e-learning and Alcohol and Other Drugs sectors. One thing that really stood out for me though was the marked difference in how conference attendees shared there conference experiences.
As you would expect, Converge10 attracted a large number of people who enjoy interacting through technological media. There were 400 attendees at the Converge conference and 300 internet enabled devices connected to the conference wi – fi hotspot over the course of two days. Many conference attendees took advantage of the hotspot to tweet about the conference.
The APSAD conference on the other hand attracted 550 attendees, of which only a handful tweeted their conference experience.
According to Wikipedia:
“Twitter is a website, owned and operated by Twitter Inc., which offers a social networking and microblogging service, enabling its users to send and read other users’ messages called tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters displayed on the user’s profile page.”
In essence people can post short messages to their Twitter account which are readable by the followers. You can also follow other people and receive updates from them. You can include links to websites and pictures in your tweets, so that your followers can access more information about the topic you are ‘tweeting’ about.
You can also include a hash tag in your tweets. A hash tag looks like this: #stonetree. You can follow different hash tags and view all posts to Twitter that contain a particular tag. This can be particularly useful for conferences where everyone tweeting from the conference uses the same hash tag, making it easier for followers who are not attending the conference to keep up to date, not only with your posts but anyone else who includes the tag in their postings.
Nigel Brunsdon and Alison Downing recently ran a workshop at the 2010 National Conference on Injecting Drug Use (NCIDU) in the UK, demonstrating to harm reduction workers how Twitter works. You can access there presentation here (this link will take you to the Injecting Advice website).
So why is this important?
The gap between scientific evidence and clinical practice has been well acknowledged in the AOD sector. In part, this gap is due to poor dissemination of research findings. It is important therefore that we can find ways to share research findings and knowledge with the wider AOD sector. Much of the research into alcohol and other drugs and harm reduction is made available through conferences and journals. Only a limited number of people within our workforce will get to attend a conference in any one year. Sharing the knowledge obtained through such a limited opportunity is an important bridge between the divide that separates research and practice. Twitter enables followers of the conference hash tag to share in the real time note taking of conference attendees.
How can we support it?
In the diagram below I have outlined some strategies for conference organisers, organisations, presenters and attendees that support the dissemination of conference presentations to an audience much wider than just the conference attendees.